Union unhappy as Massy fires 9 female workers

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

From left, retrenched Massy Stores workers Tamika Charles, Denise Marcelle, Cherish Gibson, joined by president of the Contract General Workers Trade Union (CGWTU) Ermine DeBique-Meade, secretary general of JTUM Ozzie Warwick, president of the Communication Workers Trade Union Clyde Elder, and Afiya Valentine, Nesha Rampersad and Leah Pascall, also retrenched by Massy Stores at a media conference CGWTU’s office at Rushworth Street, San Fernando, on Monday. – Lincoln Holder

President general of the Contractors and General Workers Trade Union (CGWTN), Ermine De Bique-Meade, has accused Massy Stores of unjustifiably retrenching nine female front-end supervisors from different branches.

De Bique-Meade also accused the company of “targeting women” as well as “stressing out” and having “no consideration for workers.”

At a press conference on Monday at the union’s office at Rushworth Street in San Fernando, De Bique-Meade said the union and company representatives had only two operational meetings, on August 10 and August 24.

At the meeting, the company said it reviewed its operations and identified a surplus of staff in the front-end section and, as such, some positions became redundant. On Thursday, the workers received the retrenchment letter.

De Bique-Meade said the union had asked Massy to delay its course of action until after another meeting on October 2. The union committed to submit its counter proposals on the way forward on October 7. She accused the company of refusing to meet and treat the union in good faith as requested.

“We indicated to them to hold their hands and requested certain information. We got some of the information and the rest is still to be given by Massy,” De Bique-Meade said.

“Massy’s financial year ends in September, and they wanted to show the powers that be that they could wrap up this as soon as possible, not taking into account the human aspect of it.”

The union leader said, based on the two discussions and the limited information submitted, the company needed to justify its position to identify the workers as surplus to the establishment and declare their jobs redundant.

Massy’s decision, she said, has once again exposed the uncaring nature of the capitalist class who, amid declaring massive profits, has resorted to placing working-class people on the breadline in the face of the many economic challenges such as food prices.

De Bique-Meade quoted a newspaper article that says the Central Statistical Office (CSO) found that food prices rose by 8.6 per cent between July 2022 and July 2023.

“Massy has now enjoined itself in the continuing assault on workers with the intent to keep us in economic slavery,” she said.

Referring to media reports, De Bique-Meade added that Massy reported a group profit after tax from continuing operations of $541.41 million for the nine months ended June 2023.

“This reflected a 20 per cent increase as reported by the publicly listed company for the same period in 2022. For October 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023, the group reported revenue of $10.39 billion, which was 12.5 per cent more than the $9.20 billion it reported for the same period in 2022.”

De Bique-Meade also accused Massy of increasing its number of stores but not its number of workers.

“In the past year, Massy opened six new stores and never hired new workers. Massy is stressing out workers. They would have taken workers from different stores and put them in these new stores.

“All Massy is looking at is the dollar signs at the end of the day, not taking into consideration the workers and the human aspect of the job.”

Massy has 2,000 workers in stores nationwide.

Retrenched Massy Stores workers Nesha Rampersad, right, and Leah Pascall console each other after a media conference held by their union, Contract General Workers Trade Union, at its office on Rushworth Street, San Fernando, on Monday. – Lincoln Holder

Also attending the meeting were general secretary of the Joint Trade Union Movement Ozzy Warwick, CGWTU education officer Hubert Henry, the retrenched workers, and other union members.

The affected workers included Tamika Charles, who had over 11 years of service, Joy Jordan, with over ten, and Leah Pascall, Nesha Rampersad and Afiyah Valentine, who had ten.

Britany Cruickshank had over nine years of service, Cherish Gibson and Sandy Williams had over six, and Denise Marcelle, four.

On Monday afternoon and in response to the press conference, Massy Stores Trinidad issued a statement saying it operates as a responsible retailer and employer.

“We are guided by our values and good industrial practice. We confirm that nine employees were given notice of separation on September 14 after ongoing discussions and dialogue with the union,” the statement said.

“This was a difficult decision, made after careful consideration and an extensive review of our operations. Those affected are our employees, our family, and team members for whom we care. Every effort is being made to ensure that they are supported as they navigate this transition, and we have started to identify other employment opportunities, internally and/or externally.”

The company said it remained “committed to open dialogue with all stakeholders.”

The retrenchment letter, signed by VP of Human Resources Sarah McLalchan-Avey, cited increasing competition, the changing landscape of the retail industry, and the ongoing restructuring of the commercial operations department from 2020.

In reviewing its workforce requirements, the company determined it must adopt a leaner structure for staffing the front-end department. The letter says the company terminated the worker’s services because of redundancy.

“The company has explored the possibility of redeployment into an alternative job located in another area of the retail business in an effort to keep you employed but has been unsuccessful in finding available, suitable and comparable options,” the letter says.

The termination date for the nine employees will be October 29.

The letter added, “You shall continue receiving your salary until that date. However, you will not be required to report to work after September 14. During the 45 days’ notice, you have the opportunity to explore the possibility of mitigating, averting, or reducing the effects of the retrenchment and/or obtaining alternative employment.”

They are to receive severance payments under The Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act after approval from the Board of Inland Revenue.

The company thanked the workers for their “past services” and wished them the best in their future endeavours.